Family Matters

A Whirlwind

Last Wednesday, Erin arrived to spend a few days in Michigan.  It was great to see her --- but, WOW!  What a whirlwind!  (Because we had QUITE An Agenda for this visit.)

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We spent some time at the beach (specifically . . . Oval Beach . . . one of the most beautiful stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Michigan).  We were there, officially, to scope out wedding photography locations.  But the day was beautiful - warm and sunny - so we took some time to play.  (The water was icy -- far too cold to wade in, but the sand was nice and warm.)

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We accomplished MUCH in the way of wedding planning, meeting at the venue to decide details, menu, photography, and flowers.  (Here's where the ceremony will take place.)

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And Erin said "yes to the dress." (But not one of these "lace monstrosities."  Erin has never "done lace," and nothing about that changed when it came time for her to choose a dress.)

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Both Erin and I needed to fortify ourselves frequently -- as the "wedding industry" is pretty disgusting -- and SO over the top.  (Just sayin.)

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We also did a lot of non-wedding shopping so Erin will have a good working-wardrobe for her summer internship at . . . 

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(She'll be doing technical writing and software documentation for LinkedIn in California beginning next week.)

There was still plenty of time for relaxing and eating and drinking; watching hockey with Tom; spending time with Poppy.  It was a great couple of days -- very productive and kind of exhausting, but fun.

Before we knew it . . . 

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she was gone.  (With a big suitcase that arrived Empty and departed Full Of Stuff.)

Definitely a whirlwind -- but the kind of whirlwind I welcome any time.

 

 


On Celebrating in New Ways

I often wonder when I got "bit" by the gardening bug.  It might be just be in my blood -- because for generations and generations, my family (on my dad's side) were farmers.  (My dad was raised on an Illinois farm.)  

I like to think, though, that it happened when I was a very little girl, sitting next to my mom at the strip of flower garden planted along the side of our house.  She would name the plants for me . . . moss roses, four o'clocks, snap dragons . . . and show me magical things.  How to collect seeds from the moss roses and four o'clocks.  How to make the snap dragons . . . snap open their mouths.

I'm pretty sure it was there . . . alongside my mom . . . that I discovered the magic of flowers.  (And combined with my agricultural heritage, well . . . gardening seems kind of inevitable, doesn't it?)

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My mom and I spent many a Mother's Day over the years . . . planting.  Or shopping for plants.  Or planning what to plant.  Mother's Day and time in the garden with my mom . . . it's just the way it always was.

So this Mother's Day, my first without my mom, I decided to create a special garden in celebration of her.

It's right there . . . at the very front of the garden bed next to my pergola.  

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We had to have one of the pines removed last fall, so there was new space in the front of the bed.  Tom dug it all out for me on Saturday and prepared it for my planting.

Yesterday, I planted my mom's favorite flowers.  Dahlias.  Alstroemeria.  Snap Dragons.  And, come fall, I'll plant some tulip bulbs there.  (Because my mom loved her tulips!)  Many of the hostas in this garden bed came from my mom's garden over the years.

The location is perfect -- because I can see my new Mom-garden from my kitchen window or from the patio.  And it's right next to the pergola.  I used to sit on the pergola swing and talk to her on the phone nearly every day during the warm months.  She loved to swing.

It doesn't look like much today (you know how new gardens are. . . ), but it will grow and bloom and be a wonderful celebration of my mom all season long.

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The little red bird and the fairy house came from my mom's own garden, but I purchased the memorial stone especially for this space.

Planning - and planting - this garden helped me through a tough day.  I still got to celebrate and garden with my mom -- just in a new way.

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My sister, who loves to bake, celebrated Mother's Day by baking up some of our mom's special recipes -- using Mom's recipe box and baking pans.

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My mom's rhubarb pie . . . as baked by my sister.  New ways to celebrate, indeed!

 

 


A Knitting Story for Mother's Day

My mom was a knitter.

But she was a rather reluctant and not-very-confident knitter.  Mostly because she was afraid of making mistakes and wasn't sure how to fix them -- and she had no one around to show her how.

Still, she persisted.  She knit my sister and I little red cardigans when we were little girls.  (I still have mine; cables down the front.)  She also knit us little hats that tied under our chins.  And she was the Queen of the Ripple Afghan.

And . . . she taught me to knit.

As I became a better knitter - and especially as I became adept at fixing knitting goofs - my mom got a little braver with her needles.  She mastered socks and mittens, all the while keeping us supplied with a never-ending stock of dish cloths.

But what she really wanted to knit?  Baby afghans!

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About ten years ago - back when my kids were still in high school - my mom decided to knit baby afghans for her future great grandchildren.  

She wanted to be ready, you see.  She had three grandchildren - and she wanted to be able to give each of them a handknit baby afghan whenever - and if ever - they had a child of their own.

First, she knit the yellow blanket.  For her oldest granddaughter -- my sister's daughter.

Then, she knit the variegated blanket.  For Erin.

And, finally, she knit the little aqua blanket.  For Brian.

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Then, she packed them away.  She just wanted to be ready for . . . whenever the time came.

Now, I have my mom's afghans.  Packed away safely and ready to distribute . . . when (and if ever) the time comes.

It's really comforting for me to know . . . that even though my mom will never be able to hold those future great grandchildren in her arms, those future great grandchildren will still be wrapped in her love.

(The power of knitting.)

(The power of Moms.)

Happy Mother's Day!


A Bit of Pampering

I have returned from my visit to Pittsburgh.

This time, my trip didn't include any sightseeing.  No trips to gardens.  No pilgrimages to special restaurants or brew pubs.  No shows.  Nothing fancy.

Just . . . a bit of pampering!

Erin, as you may recall from earlier posts, is in the Technical Writing graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University.  This program is intense, highly competitive, and quite grueling.  Erin, who works really hard and has Very High Standards for herself, really needed a good rest and some restorative time during her spring break.

Mom to the rescue!

My strategy was to just . . . keep things low-key.

We did some shopping.  (Baby needs a new interview suit. . . )  (And a new pair of shoes, too.)

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We enjoyed an indulgent spa day.  (Massages and facials, all around!)

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We ate out a few times -- and I also cooked a Mom-dinner in Erin's kitchen.

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We had a great time playing with Erin and Keith's silly kitty, Dash. 

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There was a whole lot of kicking back and just relaxing.  I even pampered myself -- with some wine and stitching (both knitting and Alabama Chanin) -- back in my hotel room every night.  (Gotta love my hotel wine glass!)

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And . . . a special bonus!  While Erin spent some much-deserved sleeping-in time, I met someone very special for a coffee date!

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Kat (yeah . . . THAT Kat) and I spent hours and hours chatting and catching up and even getting a bit riled up together at a Starbucks somewhat-near downtown Pittsburgh.  

Time flew!

I can attest that her incredible daily stitching project is even MORE awesome up-close-and-personal than it is on Instagram (and it's pretty dang awesome on Instagram).  I think Kat knit a few stitches while we were together, but my bag-of-sock just sat there on the table for the entirety of our visit.

As always, it's wonderful to meet a blog-friend in real life . . .

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My time in Pittsburgh was perfect.  Restful and relaxing -- with plenty of pampering.

 

 

 


February. It's the New April.

I can't even . . . with this weekend.

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Record-breaking warmth.

Sunshine.

Almost flip-flop weather.

Rather unnerving . . . to be out in the garden.  

In February.

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Totally unexpected . . . to be driving around with the sunroof open.

In February.

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So surprised . . . to be throwing together impromptu snacks-on-the-patio.

In February.

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And yet . . . here we were.

February.

(It's the new April.)

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We interrupt this blog post to bring your this special NEWS FLASH!!!

These two . . . 

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(today celebrating 7 years of "coupledom") announced this . . . 

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It's Breaking News, people:  Erin and Keith are engaged!  

(Isn't that a fun way to start the week.)

 


Roll With It, Baby

Today is a special day . . . because this guy?

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Birthday Boy!

And because every birthday needs a soundtrack, here's my song for Tom . . . on his 58th birthday.

You see, this year . . . well.  It hasn't been an easy one.  In fact, this year ranks right up there with some of the crappiest years of our 37 years together.  In fact, I'd place this year in the #1 spot of our Top Five Most Challenging Years Ever list.

There was 1993.  That was a frustrating year.

And 1999.  Lots of growing pains.

2003 was particularly nasty.  But only for a few very intense months.

2008.  Yeah.  That one was bad, too.  

But 2016?  Total shit storm.

But we're getting through it.  Because that's what we do!  We hold each other up.  We light each other's path.  We shoulder on.  We head up north.  We go to the gym.  Basically, we . . . 

Roll with it, baby.
Hang on and roll with it, baby.

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Get on through it, roll with it, baby
Luck'll come and then slip away,
you've gotta move,
bring it back to stay

You just roll with it, baby,
come on and just roll with it, baby
You and me, roll with it, baby,
hang on and just roll with it, baby

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So, happy birthday, dear Tom!  

No matter what life brings us in the coming year, I know we'll roll with it.  

Because that's what we do.

 


Cheers

When I was a little girl, my mom took a ceramics class.  I was thrilled when she made this for me:

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A snowman mug . . . with a candy cane handle.

Oh, man.  I remember that milk tasted so much BETTER out of this mug!  (And hot chocolate with marshmallows?  Oh, yeah.  The BEST.)

Of course, my mom made one for my sister, too.  And, being a wise, thinking-ahead kind of mother, she painted our initials in the candy cane handle, so we could make sure which mug belonged to which sister.

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This year, I dug my mug out of the back of my cupboard.  I stuck a bunch of candy canes in it -- and I put it on my desk.  Right there - where I can see it every day.  It reminds me of the excitement and magic I felt as a child at Christmastime.

We're in the countdown week now; the Big Day is almost here.  I hope you all have a chance to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember the special-ness of the season.  Cheers!


A Christmas Tradition. Since 1992.

Back in 1992, a friend invited me to a Pampered Chef party.  And, well, you know how it is . . . you feel obligated to go.  And obligated to buy something.

I bought this . . . 

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a gingerbread mold.

It'll be fun . . . I thought.

The kids and I can make gingerbread houses . . .  I imagined.

Maybe it'll even become an annual tradition . . . I mused.

And, y'know?  I was RIGHT!

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It was fun -- and it TOTALLY became an annual tradition!

In the early years, I always baked two houses worth of gingerbread, and my mom and I teamed up with my kids to decorate houses on a weekend before Christmas.  It was lots of fun - and something we all enjoyed doing together.  (Although Brian usually lost interest once the houses were assembled; he hardly ever stuck around for the finished product.)

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While Brian's interest waned, Erin became the Queen of Gingerbread.  She started hosting an annual gingerbread decorating party for her friends.  Here they are in 5th grade (Erin, the hostess-with-the mostest, is in the very back of this photo; I can't remember which finished house was hers, though.) . . . 

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(You'll notice I gave up on the mold when it came to Erin's parties.  We just went with graham-crackers-on-milk-cartons.)  (Works GREAT, by the way.)

Erin's annual parties continued even in high school.  She invited fewer friends -- and baked the gingerbread (in the mold) on her own.  (Just as an aside . . . one of Erin's high school friends used to decorate these incredible houses every year.  Intricate and gorgeous.  Really amazing.  She ended up becoming a pastry chef and decorator extraordinaire as an adult!  We knew her when. . . )

Once Erin finished college and moved to Pittsburgh, we started doing gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving evening after the meal.  We continued the tradition this year.  It was really hard without my mom . . . but we were thrilled to add my sister to the mix!  (She has never taken part in this particular activity with me before, although she is a veteran gingerbread house decorator.)

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This year, my sister and I got our inspiration from Pinterest.  Like . . . maybe too much inspiration.  We got really excited about . . . thatched roofs and stone fireplaces.

My sister's kind of worked . . . 

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But mine?  Not so much. . . The "stones" are falling off in little piles around the base of my house!

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(There will be no "stones" left by Christmas. . . )

But, you know.  That's how it goes!  Some years, our gingerbread houses turn out GREAT.  And some years . . . well, they just don't.  

But it doesn't matter at all.  

Because it's really not about the finished product!  Like most beloved family holiday traditions, it's ALL about the being together, having fun --  and creating memories.

I'm really blessed . . . to have some great memories coming out of that silly Pampered Chef party.  These houses really just . . . warm my heart.  Every single year.

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